To define customer engagement today, we need only to draw on the famous quote from Walmart’s founder Sam Walton, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Customer engagement as we know it has been forever altered by the pandemic. Many companies across Australia and New Zealand understandably accelerated at an unprecedented pace during the pandemic, creating entirely new and innovative ways of connecting with and servicing customers, and unlocked new opportunities in the workforce.

However, the B2C (business-to-consumer) business relationship remains largely one-directional. Companies are still in the driver’s seat, pushing services and goods to consumers and determining how customers interact with them.

As we emerge from the impact of the pandemic on digitisation, we predict a flip in that model to more fluid C2B (consumer-to-business) models. The new two-way network gives the power back to consumers to become the ultimate decision-makers in deciding their terms of engagement with businesses. They become, in essence, the CEOs of their own entity and their personal digital universe. 

In contrast to the traditional B2C model, C2B engagement allows consumers to add value to the decision in how their journey travels, ultimately calling the shots in the relationship. As brands act swiftly to close the experience gap, they need to respond to consumers’ expectations of flexibility and choice in how they interact with brands.

We are already seeing the model taking shape right here in New South Wales (NSW). The NSW Government’s vision is to become the world’s most customer-centric government by 2030. Their life journeys program is a prime example of how an organisation prioritises and designs services based on customer experiences, not government silos. Users are able to easily and confidently access information, advice and support based on their life’s major events, not how the government departments are organised.

C2B engagement demands a business to build their primary service or value-added offering that originates from the consumer, based on their insights and needs. In time, the C2B model could involve more profound ways in co-creation of product and service solutions.

This means increased investments in digital solutions, which will offer greater omnichannel experiences in line with customers’ needs and empower consumers to dictate the customer journey they want with a brand. 

The customer is the only boss, as Sam Walton says, and this rings true today more than ever.  Australian businesses will need to quickly realise this and build flexible, tailored communications that can respond to rapidly changing customer needs across any channels, at any time that the customer prefers.  

Kristen Pimpini is regional vice president for Australia and New Zealand at Twilio.